Arnold Jacob "Red" Auerbach was an American basketball coach of the Washington Capitols, the Tri-Cities Blackhawks and the Boston Celtics. After he retired from coaching, he served as president and front office executive of the Celtics until his death; as a coach, he won nine National Basketball Association championships in ten seasons. As general manager and team president of the Celtics, he won an additional seven NBA titles, for a grand total of 16 in a span of 29 years, making him one of the most successful team officials in the history of North American professional sports. Auerbach is remembered as a pioneer of modern basketball, redefining basketball as a game dominated by team play and defense and for introducing the fast break as a potent offensive weapon, he groomed many players. Additionally, Auerbach was vital in breaking down color barriers in the NBA, he made history by drafting the first African-American NBA player, Chuck Cooper in 1950, introduced the first African-American starting five in 1964, hired the first African-American head coach in North American sports.
Famous for his polarizing nature, he was well known for smoking a cigar when he thought a victory was assured, a habit that became, for many, "the ultimate symbol of victory" during his Boston tenure. In 1967, the NBA Coach of the Year award, which he had won in 1965, was named the "Red Auerbach Trophy", Auerbach was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1969. In 1980, he was named the greatest coach in the history of the NBA by the Professional Basketball Writers Association of America, was NBA Executive of the Year in 1980. In addition, Auerbach was voted one of the NBA 10 Greatest Coaches in history, was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, is honored with a retired number 2 jersey in the TD Garden, the home of the Boston Celtics. Arnold Jacob Auerbach was one of the four children of Hyman Auerbach. Hyman was a Russian-Jewish immigrant from Minsk and Marie Auerbach, née Thompson, was American-born. Auerbach Sr. had left Russia when he was 13, the couple owned a delicatessen store and went into the dry-cleaning business.
Little Arnold spent his whole childhood in Williamsburg, playing basketball. With his flaming red hair and fiery temper, Auerbach was soon nicknamed "Red."Amid the Great Depression, Red played basketball at PS 122 and in the Eastern District High School, where he was named "Second Team All-Brooklyn" by the World-Telegram in his senior year. Auerbach received an athletic scholarship to the basketball program of Bill Reinhart at George Washington University in Washington, D. C. Auerbach was a standout basketball player and graduated with a M. A. in 1941. In those years, Auerbach began to understand the importance of the fast break, appreciating how potent three charging attackers against two back-pedalling defenders could be. In 1941, Auerbach began coaching basketball at the St. Albans School and Roosevelt High School in Washington, D. C. Two years he joined the US Navy for three years, coaching the Navy basketball team in Norfolk. There, he caught the eye of Washington millionaire Mike Uline, who hired him to coach the Washington Capitols in the newly founded Basketball Association of America, a predecessor of the NBA.
In the 1946–47 BAA season, Auerbach led a fast break-oriented team built around early BAA star Bones McKinney and various ex-Navy players to a 49–11 win–loss record, including a standard-setting 17-game winning streak that stood as the single-season league record until 1969. In the playoffs, they were defeated by the Chicago Stags in six games; the next year the Capitols went 28–20 but were eliminated from the playoffs in a one-game Western Division tie-breaker. In the 1948–49 BAA season, the Caps won their first 15 games and finished the season at 38–22; the team reached the BAA Finals, but were beaten by the Minneapolis Lakers, who were led by Hall-of-Fame center George Mikan. In the next season, the BAA and the rival league National Basketball League merged to become the NBA, Auerbach felt he had to rebuild his squad. However, owner Uline declined his proposals, Auerbach resigned. After leaving the Capitols, Auerbach became assistant coach of the Duke Blue Devils men's basketball team, it was assumed that Auerbach would take over for head coach Gerry Gerard, battling cancer.
During his tenure at Duke, Auerbach worked with future All-American Dick Groat. Auerbach wrote that he "felt pretty bad waiting for to die" and that it was "no way to get a job". Auerbach left Duke after a few months when Ben Kerner, owner of the Tri-Cities Blackhawks, gave him the green light to rebuild the team from scratch. Auerbach traded more than two dozen players in just six weeks, the revamped Blackhawks improved, but ended the 1949–50 NBA season with a losing record of 28–29; when Kerner traded Auerbach's favorite player John Mahnken, an angry Auerbach resigned again. Prior to the 1950–51 NBA season, Walter Brown, owner of the Boston Celtics, was desperate to turn around his struggling and financially strapped franchise, reeling from a 22–46 record. Brown, in characteristic candor, said to a gathering of local Boston sportswriters, "Boys, I don't know anything about basketball. Who would you recommend I hire as coach?" The group vociferously answered that he get the available Auerbach, Brown complied.
In the 1950 NBA draft, Auerbach made some notable moves. First, he famously snubbed Hall-of-Fame New England point guard Bob Cousy in the 1950 NBA draft, infuriating the Boston crowd, he argued th
John Joseph "Hondo" Havlicek is an American retired professional basketball player who competed for 16 seasons with the Boston Celtics, winning eight NBA championships, four of them coming in his first four seasons. In the National Basketball Association, only teammates Bill Russell and Sam Jones won more championships during their playing careers, Havlicek is one of three NBA players with an unsurpassed 8–0 record in NBA Finals series outcomes. Havlicek is considered to be one of the greatest players in the history of the game and was inducted as a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1984, he was a three-sport athlete at Bridgeport High School in Ohio. Havlicek played college basketball with Jerry Lucas, his roommate, at Ohio State University; that team, which had future coaching legend Bobby Knight as a reserve, won the 1960 NCAA title. He was named as an alternate to the 1960 Olympic Games United States Team. Havlicek was drafted by both the Celtics and the NFL's Cleveland Browns in 1962.
After competing as a wide receiver in the Browns' training camp that year, he focused his energies on playing for the Celtics, with head coach Red Auerbach describing him as the "guts of the team." He was known for his stamina, with competitors saying that it was a challenge just to keep up with him. Nicknamed "Hondo", Havlicek revolutionized the "sixth man" role, has been immortalized for his clutch steal in the closing seconds of the 1965 Eastern Conference championship. In the seventh and final game, played at Boston Garden, the Celtics led the Philadelphia 76ers 110–109 with five seconds left, only needed to inbound the ball underneath their basket to secure the victory and advance to the NBA Finals. Hal Greer was set to throw the inbounds pass for the 76ers. Havlicek stood with his back to Greer, but as Greer's pass came inbounds, Havlicek spun and tipped the pass to Sam Jones. Veteran referee Earl Strom, who wrote about this in his memoir "Calling the Shots", called Havlicek's reaction one of the greatest plays he saw in his 32 years as a professional official.
Havlicek is the Celtics' all-time leader in points and games played, scoring 26,395 points, playing in 1,270 games. He became the first player to score 1,000 points in 16 consecutive seasons, with his best season coming during the 1970–71 NBA season when he averaged 28.9 points per game. Havlicek shares the NBA Finals single-game record for most points in an overtime period, was named that year's NBA Finals MVP. In the second overtime of Game Five of the 1976 NBA Finals, Havlicek made a leaning, running bank shot that appeared to be the game-winner, as fans spilled onto the floor, but Havlicek's shot went in with one second left and Phoenix was allowed one final shot, which Gar Heard scored to force the game's third overtime; the Celtics went on to win the game in triple overtime. Aside from being a great sixth man at the start of his career, Havlicek became known for his ability to play both forward and guard, his relentlessness and tenacity on both offense and defense, his outstanding skills in all facets of the game, his constant movement, his tireless ability to run up and down the court.
As a result of his endurance, he was a devastating fastbreak finisher, one who could score in bunches when his Celtics team would shut out the other team and grab defensive rebounds. Although he did not have a high field goal percentage, he was a clutch outside shooter with great range, he was the type of player who would do what it took to help his team score a victory, such as grab a crucial rebound, draw a charge, come up with a steal in a key defensive moment, or settle the team with a clutch basket or assist. In 1974, Russell summed up Havlicek's career by saying "He is the best all-around player I saw." A thirteen-time NBA All-Star, Havlicek retired in 1978 and his number 17 jersey was retired by the Celtics. At the time of his retirement, Havlicek was the NBA career leader in games played and third in points behind Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson. Havlicek retired as the career leader in field goal attempts and missed field goals. Havlicek is now 26th, 15th, 6th and 2nd in those stats.
In 1984 Havlicek became a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. In 1997, he was selected as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History. Havlicek was ranked #17 on SLAM magazine's Top 50 NBA Players of all time in 2009 and once again at the same position in the magazine's Top 500 NBA Players of all time in 2011, he was named the 14th best player of all-time in Bill Simmons's Book of Basketball. The Bridgeport High School Gymnasium was renamed the "John J. Havlicek Gymnasium" in January 2007, he shares the honor with National High School Hall of Fame member Frank Baxter, a longtime coach at Bridgeport High School. The court is named after Baxter. Fellow Hall of Famer Chris Mullin wore number 17 as a tribute to Havlicek. Pony International still produces a model of athletic shoes named after the iconic basketballer called the "John Havlicek" bearing John's signature. Havlicek's son Chris played collegiate basketball f
National Basketball Association
The National Basketball Association is a men's professional basketball league in North America. It is considered to be the premier men's professional basketball league in the world; the NBA is an active member of USA Basketball, recognized by FIBA as the national governing body for basketball in the United States. The NBA is one of the four major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada. NBA players are the world's best paid athletes by average annual salary per player; the league was founded in New York City on June 1946, as the Basketball Association of America. The league adopted the name National Basketball Association on August 3, 1949, after merging with the competing National Basketball League; the league's several international as well as individual team offices are directed out of its head offices located in the Olympic Tower at 645 Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan. NBA Entertainment and NBA TV studios are directed out of offices located in New Jersey; the Basketball Association of America was founded in 1946 by owners of the major ice hockey arenas in the Northeastern and Midwestern United States and Canada.
On November 1, 1946, in Toronto, Canada, the Toronto Huskies hosted the New York Knickerbockers at Maple Leaf Gardens, in a game the NBA now refers to as the first game played in NBA history. The first basket was made by Ossie Schectman of the Knickerbockers. Although there had been earlier attempts at professional basketball leagues, including the American Basketball League and the NBL, the BAA was the first league to attempt to play in large arenas in major cities. During its early years, the quality of play in the BAA was not better than in competing leagues or among leading independent clubs such as the Harlem Globetrotters. For instance, the 1948 ABL finalist Baltimore Bullets moved to the BAA and won that league's 1948 title, the 1948 NBL champion Minneapolis Lakers won the 1949 BAA title. Prior to the 1948–49 season, however, NBL teams from Fort Wayne, Indianapolis and Rochester jumped to the BAA, which established the BAA as the league of choice for collegians looking to turn professional.
On August 3, 1949, the remaining NBL teams–Syracuse, Tri-Cities, Sheboygan and Waterloo–merged into the BAA. In deference to the merger and to avoid possible legal complications, the league name was changed to the present National Basketball Association though the merged league retained the BAA's governing body, including Podoloff. To this day, the NBA claims the BAA's history as its own, it now reckons the arrival of the NBL teams as an expansion, not a merger, does not recognize NBL records and statistics. The new league had seventeen franchises located in a mix of large and small cities, as well as large arenas and smaller gymnasiums and armories. In 1950, the NBA consolidated to eleven franchises, a process that continued until 1953–54, when the league reached its smallest size of eight franchises: the New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia Warriors, Minneapolis Lakers, Rochester Royals, Fort Wayne Pistons, Tri-Cities Blackhawks, Syracuse Nationals, all of which remain in the league today.
The process of contraction saw. The Hawks shifted from the Tri-Cities to Milwaukee in 1951, to St. Louis in 1955; the Rochester Royals moved from Rochester, New York, to Cincinnati in 1957 and the Pistons relocated from Fort Wayne, Indiana, to Detroit in 1957. Japanese-American Wataru Misaka broke the NBA color barrier in the 1947–48 season when he played for the New York Knicks, he remained the only non-white player in league history prior to the first African-American, Harold Hunter, signing with the Washington Capitols in 1950. Hunter was cut from the team during training camp, but several African-American players did play in the league that year, including Chuck Cooper with the Celtics, Nathaniel "Sweetwater" Clifton with the Knicks, Earl Lloyd with the Washington Capitols. During this period, the Minneapolis Lakers, led by center George Mikan, won five NBA Championships and established themselves as the league's first dynasty. To encourage shooting and discourage stalling, the league introduced the 24-second shot clock in 1954.
If a team does not attempt to score a field goal within 24 seconds of obtaining the ball, play is stopped and the ball given to its opponent. In 1957, rookie center Bill Russell joined the Boston Celtics, which featured guard Bob Cousy and coach Red Auerbach, went on to lead the club to eleven NBA titles in thirteen seasons. Center Wilt Chamberlain entered the league with the Warriors in 1959 and became a dominant individual star of the 1960s, setting new single game records in scoring and rebounding. Russell's rivalry with Chamberlain became one of the greatest rivalries in the history of American team sports; the 1960s were dominated by the Celtics. Led by Russell, Bob Cousy and coach Red Auerbach, Boston won eight straight championships in the NBA from 1959 to 1966; this championship streak is the longest in NBA history. They did not win the title in 1966–67, but regained it in the 1967–68 season and repeated in 1969; the domination totaled nine of the ten championship banners of the 1960s.
Through this period, the NBA continued to evolve with the shift of the Minneapolis Lakers to Los Angeles, the Philadelphia Warriors to San Francisco, the Syracuse Nationals to Philadelphia to become the Philadelphia 76ers, the St. Louis Hawks moving to Atlanta, as well as the addition of its first expansion franchises; the Chicago Packers (now Wa
Clyde Edward Lovellette was an American professional basketball player. He was the first basketball player in history to play on an NCAA championship team, Olympics gold medal basketball team, NBA championship squad; as a high school junior, Lovellette's undefeated high school team in Terre Haute, Indiana lost in the Indiana state championship finals to Shelbyville, Indiana led by Bill Garrett. Lovellette fostered the trend of tall and high-scoring centers. A two-time All-State performer at Garfield High School in Terre Haute, the six-foot-nine Lovellette attended the University of Kansas where he became a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity. While at the University of Kansas he led Jayhawks to the 1952 NCAA title, capturing MVP honors and scoring a then-NCAA-record 141 points. A two-time first-team All-American at Kansas, Clyde led the Big Seven in scoring in each of his three seasons. Playing for Basketball Hall of Fame coach Forrest "Phog" Allen, Lovellette led the nation in scoring his senior year and was named the Helms College Player of the Year.
Lovellette and basketball legend Dean Smith were teammates at Kansas. He is still the only college player to lead the nation in scoring and win the NCAA title in the same year. Lovellette's dominance in the paint landed him a place on the 1952 Summer Olympics gold medal team in Helsinki, Finland and he was the team's dominating player and leading scorer. Lovelette was the 1st Round pick of the Minneapolis Lakers in the 1952 NBA draft. Following graduation, Lovelette played in 1951-1952 and 1952-1953 seasons for the Bartlesville Phillips 66ers. At the pro level, Clyde became one of the first big men to move outside and utilize the one-handed set shot that extended his shooting range and offensive repertoire; this tactic enabled him to play either the small forward, power forward or center positions, forcing the opposition's big man to play out of position. In 704 NBA games with the Minneapolis Lakers, Cincinnati Royals, St. Louis Hawks and Boston Celtics, Lovellette scored 11,947 points and grabbed 6,663 rebounds.
Selected to play in three NBA All-Star Games, Lovellette was an integral component of championships in Minneapolis and Boston. Lovellette is one of only seven players in history to win an NCAA Championship, an NBA Championship, an Olympic Gold Medal. Lovellette was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 1982. Lovelette had his #16 Jersey retired by the University of Kansas. Lovelette was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1988; as of 2018, Lovellette is the only player from the 1952 NBA draft to make the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He was featured in the 1950s All-Star roster on NBA Live 2007. After retiring he participated in a variety of activities including serving as Sheriff of Vigo County, Indiana, he enjoyed business activities. At Whites Residential Services, a faith-based school in Wabash County, Indiana for at-risk teenagers, he served for 20 years and was successful in providing a positive influence on their lives, he resided at one time in the small town of Munising in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where he served as the Varsity Basketball Assistant Coach and on the city council.
Lovellette died from cancer in North Manchester, Indiana at the age of 86. Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame bio University of Kansas Men's Basketball Basketball-reference.com: Clyde Lovellette stats
The Boston Celtics are an American professional basketball team based in Boston, Massachusetts. The Celtics compete in the National Basketball Association as a member of the league's Eastern Conference Atlantic Division. Founded in 1946 as one of the league's original eight teams, the team play their home games at TD Garden, which they share with the National Hockey League's Boston Bruins; the Celtics are one of the most successful teams in NBA history. The Celtics have a notable rivalry with the Los Angeles Lakers, have played the Lakers a record 12 times in the NBA Finals, of which the Celtics have won nine. Four Celtics players have won the NBA Most Valuable Player Award for an NBA record total of 10 MVP awards. Both the nickname "Celtics" and their mascot "Lucky the Leprechaun" are a nod to Boston's large Irish population. After winning 16 championships throughout the 20th century, the Celtics, after struggling through the 1990s, rose again to win a championship in 2008 with the help of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen in what was known as the new "Big Three" era, following the original "Big Three" era that featured Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, which combined to win the 1981, 1984, 1986 championships.
Following the win in 2008, general manager Danny Ainge began a rebuilding process with the help of head coach Brad Stevens, who led the Celtics to a return to the playoffs from 2015. During the following season, the Celtics clinched the top seed in the Eastern Conference, but were eliminated in the Conference Finals; this prompted an aggressive rebuild in 2017, where the team acquired All-Stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. However, the pair struggled with injuries throughout the 2017–18 season, the team was again defeated in the Eastern Conference Finals; the Boston Celtics were formed on June 6, 1946, by Boston Garden-Arena Corporation president Walter A. Brown as a team in the Basketball Association of America, became part of the National Basketball Association after the absorption of the National Basketball League by the BAA in the fall of 1949. In 1950, the Celtics signed Chuck Cooper; the Celtics struggled until the hiring of coach Red Auerbach. In the franchise's early days, Auerbach had no assistants, ran all the practices, did all the scouting—both of opposing teams and college draft prospects—and scheduled all road trips.
One of the first great players to join the Celtics was Bob Cousy, whom Auerbach refused to draft out of nearby Holy Cross because he was "too flashy." Cousy's contract became the property of the Chicago Stags, but when that franchise went bankrupt, Cousy went to the Celtics in a dispersal draft. After the 1955–56 season, Auerbach made a stunning trade, sending perennial All-Star Ed Macauley to the St. Louis Hawks along with the draft rights to Cliff Hagan for the second overall pick in the draft. After negotiating with the Rochester Royals—a negotiation that included a promise that the Celtics owner would send the sought-after Ice Capades to Rochester if the Royals would let Russell slide to #2—Auerbach used the pick to select University of San Francisco center Bill Russell. Auerbach acquired Holy Cross standout, 1957 NBA Rookie of the Year, Tommy Heinsohn. Russell and Heinsohn worked extraordinarily well with Cousy, they were the players around whom Auerbach would build the champion Celtics for more than a decade.
With Bill Russell, the Celtics advanced to the 1957 NBA Finals and defeated the St. Louis Hawks in seven games, the first of a record 17 championships. Russell went on making him the most decorated player in NBA history. In 1958, the Celtics again advanced to this time losing to the Hawks in 6 games. However, with the acquisition of K. C. Jones that year, the Celtics began a dynasty. In 1959, the Celtics won the NBA Championship after sweeping the Minneapolis Lakers, the first of their record eight consecutive championships. During that time, the Celtics met the Lakers in the Finals five times, starting an intense and bitter rivalry that has spanned generations. In 1964, the Celtics became the first NBA team to have an all African-American starting lineup. On December 26, 1964, Willie Naulls replaced an injured Tommy Heinsohn, joining Tom'Satch' Sanders, K. C. Jones, Sam Jones, Bill Russell in the starting lineup; the Celtics defeated St. Louis 97–84. Boston won its next 11 games with Naulls starting in place of Heinsohn.
The Celtics of the late 1950s–1960s are considered as one of the most dominant teams of all time. Auerbach retired as coach after the 1965–66 season and Russell took over as player-coach, Auerbach's ploy to keep Russell interested. With his appointment Russell became the first African-American coach in any U. S. pro sport. Auerbach would remain a position he would hold well into the 1980s. However, the Celtics' string of NBA titles ended when they lost to the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1966 Eastern Conference Finals; the aging team managed two more championships in 1968 and 1969, defeating the Los Angeles Lakers each time. Russell retired after the 1969 season ending a Celtics dynasty that had garnered an unrivaled 11 NBA titles in 13 seasons; the team's run of 8 consecutive is the longest championship streak in U. S. professional sports history. The 1970 season was a rebuilding year, as the Celtics had their first losing record since the 1949–50 season
William Felton Russell is an American retired professional basketball player who played center for the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association from 1956 to 1969. A five-time NBA Most Valuable Player and a twelve-time All-Star, he was the centerpiece of the Celtics dynasty that won eleven NBA championships during his thirteen-year career. Russell and Henri Richard of the National Hockey League are tied for the record of the most championships won by an athlete in a North American sports league. Russell led the University of San Francisco to two consecutive NCAA championships in 1955 and 1956, he captained the gold-medal winning U. S. national basketball team at the 1956 Summer Olympics. Russell is regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time, he was 6 ft 10 with a 7 ft 4 in wingspan. His shot-blocking and man-to-man defense were major reasons for the Celtics' domination of the NBA during his career. Russell was notable for his rebounding abilities, he led the NBA in rebounds four times, had a dozen consecutive seasons of 1,000 or more rebounds, remains second all-time in both total rebounds and rebounds per game.
He is one of just two NBA players to have grabbed more than 50 rebounds in a game. Russell was never the focal point of the Celtics' offense, but he did score 14,522 career points and provided effective passing. Russell played in the wake of black pioneers Earl Lloyd, Chuck Cooper, Sweetwater Clifton, he was the first black player to achieve superstar status in the NBA, he served a three-season stint as player-coach for the Celtics, becoming the first black coach in North American professional sports and the first to win a championship. In 2011, Barack Obama awarded Russell the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his accomplishments on the court and in the Civil Rights Movement. Russell is one of seven players in history to win an NCAA Championship, an NBA Championship, an Olympic gold medal, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. He was selected into the NBA 25th Anniversary Team in 1971 and the NBA 35th Anniversary Team in 1980, named as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996, one of only four players to receive all three honors.
In 2007, he was enshrined in the FIBA Hall of Fame. In Russell's honor the NBA renamed the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player trophy in 2009: it is now the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award. Bill Russell was born in 1934 to Katie Russell in West Monroe, Louisiana. Like all Southern towns and cities of that time, West Monroe was a segregated place, the Russells struggled with racism in their daily lives. Russell's father was once refused service at a gas station until the staff had taken care of all the white customers; when his father attempted to leave and find a different station, the attendant stuck a shotgun in his face and threatened to kill him if he didn't stay and wait his turn. In another incident, Russell's mother was walking outside in a fancy dress when a white policeman accosted her, he told her to go home and remove the dress, which he described as "white woman's clothing". During World War II, large numbers of blacks were moving to the West to look for work there; when Russell was eight years old, his father moved the family out of Louisiana and settled in Oakland, California.
While there, the family fell into poverty, Russell spent his childhood living in a series of public housing projects. Charles Russell was described as a "stern, hard man" who worked as a janitor in a paper factory, a typical "Negro Job"—low paid and not intellectually challenging, as sports journalist John Taylor commented; when World War II broke out, the elder Russell became a truck driver. Russell was closer to his mother Katie than to his father, he received a major emotional blow when she died when he was 12 years old, his father gave up his trucking job and became a steelworker to be closer to his semi-orphaned children. Russell has stated that his father became his childhood hero followed up by Minneapolis Lakers superstar George Mikan, whom he met when he was in high school. Mikan, in turn, would say of Russell the college basketball player, "Let's face it, he's the best ever. He's so good, he scares you." In his early years, Russell struggled to develop his skills as a basketball player.
Although Russell was a good runner and jumper and had large hands, he did not understand the game and was cut from the team in junior high school. As a freshman at McClymonds High School in Oakland, Russell was cut again. However, coach George Powles saw Russell's raw athletic potential and encouraged him to work on his fundamentals. Since Russell's previous experiences with white authority figures were negative, he was delighted to receive warm words from his white coach, he worked hard and used the benefits of a growth spurt to become a decent basketball player, but it was not until his junior and senior years that he began to excel, winning back to back high school state championships. Russell soon became, he recalled, "To play good defense... it was told back that you had to stay flatfooted at all times to react quickly. When I started to jump to make defensive plays and to block shots, I was corrected, but I stuck with it, it paid off." Russell, in an autobiographical account, notes while on a California High School All-Stars tour, he became obsessed with studying and memorizing other players' moves as preparation for defending against them